In the Eyes of Tantalus: Medical Cannabis Under Threat in U.S.

By Hunky the Centaur

A mystified world watches in disbelief and sadness as Trump’s America devolves from its leadership role in the Free World. Countless examples of international floundering are being cautiously noted by allies. Equally glaring, but on a more domestic scale, has been the president’s admiration of authoritarian leadership, and inclination towards racist posturing – pushed to appease his primarily rural, White base of support who fear an inevitable “minority majority” United States.

But, how can Trump satisfy his lust for autocracy and a more “Anglo-America,” when there are nuisances discouraging such indulgences, such as an independent congress, media and judiciary system? For starters, bring back old, disproven mythologies of danger by enforcing existing, but outdated laws to “protect” the homeland. This tactic bypasses all those pesky constitutional hurdles, and gives his shrinking base of support the illusion that he is truly America’s “Law and Order” president.

Again, there are many examples I could cite, but there is one particularly dear in the eyes of America’s modern-day Tantalus; a deliciously juicy, irresistible piece of low-hanging fruit – enticing him on the tree of compassion, law, and justice: medical cannabis.

medical cannabis a view

You may not know, but cannabis (or marijuana, as it’s commonly known), medical or otherwise, is technically illegal under federal law in the United States. Though 29 states/jurisdictions have passed local laws allowing for varying use of cannabis, it is a Schedule I Narcotic, as categorized by the Controlled Substances Act of 1970, right alongside heroin and LSD. This federal law is still on the books, nothing has changed – except for enlightened perception, research, compassion and, most importantly, federal crime enforcement policy.

Bullseye! A perfect target for President Trump, and his chief law enforcement officer, attorney general Jeffrey Beauregard Sessions III. Not only is cannabis still illegal, it’s been demonized by almost 80 years of wrongheaded, even racist mythology of almost Biblical proportions.

Jeff Sessions, a former senator from the quintessentially Southern state of Alabama, sincerely believes in the old tales about cannabis, passed down from generations. In a recent speech, he claimed that cannabis leads to a life of “life-wrecking dependency” that is “only slightly less-awful than heroin.”

His views are apparently taken straight from the 1936 propaganda film, Reefer Madness. He’s convinced cannabis has absolutely no medical value; a dangerous, addictive gateway drug, linked to violence, crime, sexual promiscuity, decreased IQ – even insanity and suicide.

These attributes were concocted out of thin air by America’s original “Drug Czar,” Harry Anslinger, and his racist acolytes in the early 20th century. As director of the newly created National Bureau of Narcotics (the rechristened Bureau of Prohibition), his agency successfully convinced White America that marijuana’s deleterious effects were particularly acute among minorities. Here are some actual quotes, fabricated to promote their viewpoint:

“There are 100,000 total marijuana smokers in the U.S., and most are Negroes, Hispanics, Filipinos, and entertainers. Their satanic music, jazz and swing, result from marijuana use. This marijuana causes white women to seek sexual relations with Negroes, entertainers, and any others.”

“The primary reason to outlaw marijuana is its effect on the degenerate races.”

“Marijuana is an addictive drug which produces in its users insanity, criminality, and death.”

“Reefer makes darkies think they are as good as white men.”

Even the word marijuana (or marihuana, back then) was promoted on the street for cannabis, linking its increasing usage to the influx of dark-skinned Mexican immigrants entering the U.S. at the time

Sessions has already begun his efforts to curtail individual states’ medical cannabis programs, asking in a letter to congress to remove the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment, which prohibits the Justice department from using federal funds to prosecute state-regulated, medical cannabis providers and users.

The Rohrabacher-Farr amendment was first introduced and failed in congress in 2003, but finally slipped through as an attachment to an overall spending bill signed by President Obama in 2014. It must be re-approved each year with spending legislation. This puts the amendment under constant threat from a capricious congress looking for ways to appear productive, working with the new “Law and Order” president and his attorney general.

This is the real and present danger – the ugly mythology that simply does not hold up against the growing evidence extolling the therapeutic value of cannabis. Medical cannabis programs have flourished, despite the demagoguery of Jeff Sessions and others; they are not based on the latest research on the topic.

Most states with medical cannabis programs have developed varying catalogues of illnesses deemed appropriate for cannabis use, ranging from the initial qualifying diseases of cancer, glaucoma, and HIV/AIDS; to newer applications like Parkinson’s disease, Multiple sclerosis, Epilepsy, Wasting syndrome, Crohn’s disease, chronic pain, neuropathy, depression, anxiety, and PTSD. Plus, exciting new research has the medical world announcing medical cannabis may help suppress opioid withdrawal symptoms, or even replace many opioid pain treatments.

The positive impact of cannabis fighting the symptoms of these ailments have been well-documented, and supported by leading American health organizations such as the American Nurses Association, the American Public Health Association, the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, the Epilepsy Foundation, and the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association.

Even older thought-leaders in the public health arena such as the American Medical Association, and the American College of Physicians, while not yet outright advocating medical cannabis programs, have called for further research on the subject of promising cannabis potential.

[If you want to deepen the question, we suggest you to read the latest scientific articles published here, for example]

Over the decades, I have taken great interest in the medical value of cannabis. Why?

GDJ / Pixabay

I serve as the “Life Coach” to a thankfully graying, middle-aged man I call Hume. He lives with his life partner of over 20 years in Washington, DC. They are both “Long-term Survivors” of the HIV epidemic, having contracted the virus during the early years of the plague in the 1980s.

The chemical qualities of cannabis has greatly helped Hume, especially concerning pain management and the overwhelming sense of depression due to his own health outlook, and that of so many of his friends. He’s known other HIV-positive individuals who’ve committed suicide over the years.

Elevated suicide rates among HIV-positive individuals due to depression have remained elevated, even after the advent of effective anti-viral medications developed to combat the virus. The use of cannabis to fight depression has been used for centuries, and has been used by Hume to combat melancholy for decades – even before being legitimately prescribed by doctors.

Hume has always looked at medical cannabis as another “tool” in his toolbox to fight the disease. In his case, at least, it’s worked. He’s gone on living, and enjoyed a decades-long, successful career in the performing arts in New York and Washington, DC. Could he have managed without medical cannabis? Maybe…maybe not. But, why would politicians want to risk it by removing the option?

Once, at a perfunctory doctor’s appointment, a review of his prescription regimen brought up the question, “Why do you use medical marijuana?”

It took a few moments to consider his answer. Does he use it to fight the debilitating HIV-related neuropathy pain in his extremities? Or, the constant pain resulting from 11 hours of spinal fusion surgery? Or, the effects of surgery, chemo and radiation therapy and wasting due to colorectal cancer? Or … was it simply to help him cope with the numbing depression brought about by decades living with the stigmatizing scourge of HIV? Ultimately, he thoughtfully replied, “Anxiety.” That encompassed all the others, and he thought it summed up his usage succinctly.

Interestingly, if President Trump and Jeff Sessions get their way, needy patients like Hume in the District of Columbia (DC) could perhaps be the first affected, since the District is a federal jurisdiction, and unfortunately does not have any voting representation in congress.

He is among the thousands in DC who benefit every day by the arguably wondrous effects of this simple, ancient remedy. With 94% of the American public now in favor of medical cannabis programs, and nearly 75% in favor of allowing states with existing programs to keep them, America’s new Tantalus president and his ill-informed minions may find more of the kind of resistance they’ve begun to face on many of their other “”Law and Order” maneuvers.

Only time will tell. In the meantime, stay informed and vigilant, the fight may be just beginning.

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Author: Hunky the Centaur

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